Sanders never flunked a drug test, but memory might have failed him


Talks with Clayton helped when previous pick signs



August 03, 2005|By Brent Jones and Kim Phelan | Brent Jones and Kim Phelan,SUN STAFF

Though Deion Sanders has never been shy about distinguishing himself from other players with lively news conferences, his monologue yesterday may qualify as an all-timer.

Athletes everywhere tend to avoid connecting their names with steroids, but Sanders went in the other direction, admitting to unknowingly testing positive for a banned substance after hurting his ankle in a basketball game before he signed with the Ravens last year.

Problem is, Sanders never failed a drug test, Ravens officials say. Whatever substance he used to help the ankle heal was not an illegal one despite his characterization. If a player tests positive for steroids, he receives an automatic four-game suspension in the NFL.

Sanders was never suspended last season.

Discussing Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's suspension for violating Major League Baseball's steroid policy, Sanders tried to illustrate how a player could use the substance without knowing. Or at least, think he used it without knowing.

"When I was training last year to get ready to come in I twisted my ankle playing basketball prior to that." Sanders said. "I went to the doctor, he gave me some medication, I signed with the Ravens, and the next thing I know, they tested me weekly. I'm like, what's going on? I never had a prior [positive test].

"They tell me I flunked the steroids test. That's how things are. I was on the random steroid test list every week because I took something to help expedite my ankle.

"You can tell by my body structure that I could be taking steroids because I'm big like that." he joked. "That's how innocent it could be."

And is. Sanders may have been tested weekly for banned substances, but it stemmed from a drug test he failed to show up for while under contract with the Washington Redskins.

Sanders retired from the Redskins after the 2000 season but apparently did not immediately file the proper papers with the league. With Sanders still officially part of the Redskins, he was subject to the NFL's random drug-testing program.

Once Sanders failed to show up for the test, the league had probable cause to test Sanders up to 10 times a month for a year if he ever decided to play football again. Sanders is not expected to be tested as much this season.

Clayton deal parameters

The Ravens" talks with first-round draft pick Mark Clayton should have been helped by the Jacksonville Jaguars" signing of their top pick, Matt Jones.

It now means the player selected before Clayton (Jones at No. 21 ) and after him the Oakland Raiders' Fabian Washington at No. 23 ) have both reached agreements. Under the NFL's unofficial slotting principle, Clayton should receive a deal between those picks, which would equate to a five-year, approximately $8.1 million contract.

Coach Brian Billick issued a stern message to Clayton, who has missed the first two days of practice.

"If 21 is done and 23 is done, you"re here if you want to be here." Billick said. "It's clear cut."

Boulware back?

Peter Boulware confirmed last night that general manager Ozzie Newsome contacted his agents to get a feel for whether the linebacker would re-sign with the Ravens.

The Ravens are looking for a possible replacement for Dan Cody, their second-round pick who sprained his right knee Monday. It's likely that Cody will be sidelined the entire season.

"Peter's a viable option to us." Billick said. "That's really up to Peter. That certainly would be attractive to us, but that's got to be something that Peter wants as well."

Opportunity for Green

Cody remained on crutches at the team hotel yesterday, his status for the remainder of the season still uncertain.

The likelihood, however, of Cody's returning to play is slim, opening the door for second-year linebacker Roderick Green, who specializes in rushing the passer.

"I hate to see him go down like that, but if I have to step up for him to fill in that spot, that's what I got to do." Green said. 'I've been rushing the passer for four years. That's my thing. I love to get out there and get after the quarterback."

Testing temperatures

With conditions significantly warmer than on the previous day, Billick viewed the weather as an aid to get the Ravens in shape more than a burden that physically tears the players down.

"It tests you mentally." Billick said. "It makes you push a little harder and find out what kind of shape you're in and what your focus is. It's a good thing, but by the same token, we've got to be a little smart as we go forward."

With temperatures expected to continue to rise, the Ravens will move today's afternoon practice to their indoor facility in Owings Mills. It will be closed to the public.

Stamps getting a shot

If receiver Fred Stamps is in better shape this season, it is thanks to hard work in the offseason. "I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life." Stamps said after special teams practice yesterday. "I've been working with a speed and conditioning coach, and he has really made me."

Stamps, who was the return specialist for the Ravens" practice squad last season, has worked hard, with the hopes of earning a spot on the regular team. His performance so far, though, is not enough in his opinion to show his true potential.

"I think I've been OK, but not in my best element. Butterflies and all that." Stamps said of his performance so far.

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